On carrying pepper sprays in Delhi Metro

File photo from Google Images

“What is this?” she asked, toying with a small yellow bottle.

“A pepper spray.”

The scanning machine at the Metro Station had stopped functioning a short while ago and this female security personnel was checking bags manually. The pepper spray was in the top pocket of my bag because, well, it has to be easily accessible, doesn’t it?

“This is not allowed,” she stated categorically.

“What? But why? I’ve been carrying it everyday. It’s for self protection. I have to take an auto…”

“This is not allowed,” she cut me short and called over a male colleague who also examined my pepper spray with some curiosity.

“This is for…” I started to explain.

“MADAM! YE ALLOWED NAHIN HAI!” he said rather loudly.

It was a Friday and I had left office early in hopes of avoiding the evening rush. After the machine broke, the crowd at the station started swelling like a bee sting. As the queue behind me lengthened, I heard loud sighs of irritation.

The female staffer extended an olive branch. “Madam, you can go downstairs and leave it with someone and come back. You come here everyday, right? You can easily collect it tomorrow.”

“What?! Leave it with whom?” I asked, confused. The only structure around that Metro station was a mall. The only people I was likely to find outside the Metro station were auto-and-ricksha-wallas. Whom was she referring to?

“Leave it with whomever you know.”

“Here?! I do not know anyone here. My office is 20 minutes of auto ride away. And, that’s why I carry this spray. It’s for my own protection. Even when I get off…”

“Madam, ye allowed nahin hai,” the male colleague chipped in, cutting me off yet again.

I let them keep the pepper spray. As I headed to the platform, a sudden vulnerability gripped me, slowing my steps. I felt defenceless, exposed. Never before had I realised how much I banked on that inconspicuous little yellow can.

A few years ago, I was stalked by a crazy person. Even after that person was caught and jailed, I spent months looking over my shoulder and avoided all types of public transport. I had started carrying a pepper spray then. Having an easy access to it gave me a sense of security, the least of self defence I could manage. I also wanted to learn martial art, but never got around to learning it.

I was jittery on the way to my destination station, from where my dad would pick me up in his car and drive home (another 20–30 minutes). Why would they take the pepper spray away, I wondered. It’s non-lethal. Not allowing commuters to carry a pepper spray might be legal, but it’s not sensible.

Not long ago, a Snapdeal employee was abducted while she was on her way home from Vaishali Metro Station. She would take a share auto to home everyday. The prime accused, according to this media report, had first spotted her at Rajiv Chowk Metro Station and stalked her for over a year before finally putting his plan into action. He had bought two autos because he knew she took one to home everyday. While thankfully, the employee is safe and sound, these occurrences are not uncommon.

Pepper sprays in Delhi are a necessity. The city has one of the highest crime rates in the country, especially when it comes to crime against women. One of the most horrific crimes in the recent times was the Nirbhaya gangrape (which occurred on a bus). Soon after the incidence, the sale of pepper sprays had grown exponentially in the city. At the first anniversary of the crime, Delhi Police had distributed pepper sprays to women, encouraging them to carry one for their self protection. But of course, if you had received one, it would have been promptly confiscated at the Metro gate. Counterintuitive, isn’t it?

There have been several instances of attack on women who were taking an Ola or an Uber for late-night or long commute. Delhi Metro remains one of the safest modes of transport. But it rarely, if ever, connects your home and destination. Like in my case, people usually have to take another mode of transport. Even those with homes close to a Metro station have to walk. That is when you’re vulnerable and having a pepper spray at hand would help. I hope common sense prevails at DMRC.

Anyhow, for all you Delhi Metro users out there, here’s the list of things not allowed in a Metro for your reference:

1. No goods other than a small baggage containing personal belongings not exceeding 60 cm * 45 cm * 25 cm in size and 45 kg in weight

2. Explosive substances, which possess risk of explosion, or fire, or both

3. Gases, compressed, liquefied, or dissolved under pressure

4. Petroleum and other inflammable liquids

5. Inflammable solids

6. Oxidising substances

7. Poisonous (toxic) substances

8. Acids and other corrosives

9. Radioactive substances

10. Blood, dried

11. Corpses

12. Carcasses of dead animals

13. Bones, excluding bleached and cleaned bones

14. Manure of any kind

15. Rags, including oily rags

16. Any decayed animal or vegetable matter

17. Human ashes

18. Human skeleton

19. Parts of human body

20. Any other article declared as dangerous or offensive material by the metro railway administration from time to time.

Originally posted here.